You know what's been lost in the whole minivan era? A suitable appreciation of the maxivan. Back in the day, when the customized Dodge van was a-rockin', you knew not to come knockin'. Ahh, good times.
Now it turns out that, for a brief moment, that maxivan magic was back at Dodge, in what may be the single, solitary bright spot of the Daimler-Chrysler merger fiasco. Of course, I'm talking about the Dodge Sprinter. It's an honest-to-goodness, straight-off-the-boat, rebadged-in-Dusseldorf Mercedes Sprinter van, complete with a 2.7L CDi. The consumer version even has side and rear windows!
The example above belongs to DT reader George, who's in the process of converting it in the spirit of the long-lost--and recently re-canceled--VW microbus. His description after the jump includes the following phrases: "28 MPG," "Galley with sink, fridge, microwave, the top doubles as a changing table" and "a hoot to drive." Also, there's a shot of the Maxi-Cosi car seat, installed:
[update: and from the comments, a picture of the blinged out Sprinter with the optional stripper pole. Seriously.]
Ok, so the background story is I wanted the VW Microbus and was heartbroken when they canceled it.
I wouldn't want to be caught dead in a minivan. I find most SUVs horribly inefficient and frankly useless.
I wanted a European van.
Becker Auto Design in Oxnard, CA actually makes a sweet van they call the JetVan, but at $200,000+ that was out of my league.
Luckily there was a DIY solution:
When MB took over Chrysler they told Dodge to kill the RAM van and substitute it with the German made Sprinter. Honest to goodness, they make the Sprinter vans in Düsseldorf, then glue on a plastic Dodge grille and ship it to the states. The "Dodge" grille actually has a Mercedes part number on it...
[First thing, I sourced the original MB grill and converted the Sprinter back to its original form.]
The Sprinter is a pretty good ride as is:
- 2.7 Liter Turbodiesel Direct Injection
- 28 MPG @ 55Mph (better milage than my wife's Subaru)
- Industrial strength chassis can tow 10,000 lbs.
- It's like the big brother to the G-wagon
- why break down the stoller?
- let's bring the dog
- rubber floor
- The seats are removable but not adjustable and at 250 lbs hardly easy to move around.
- The 2005 I have doesn't have LATCH (the new models do...)
Then I went to work converting my Sprinter into a family van loosely based on the Becker JetVan:
- Soundproofing and Insulation...this is a commercial vehicle
- Aluminum tracks and seats with LATCH from the VW t5 Multivan sourced on eBay Germany
- Galley with sink, fridge, microwave, the top doubles as a changing table
- Bench seat folds flat and make a great bed for tired parents
- ceiling vent and fan for fresh air
- passenger swivel seat for lounging
- extra battery and inverter to power the 110V outlets
- iPhone tied to the factory radio
- Polk Audio speakers for better sound
- wired the heater to run when the engine is off (the CDI engine is so efficient it doesn't make enough heat, there actually is a small heater installed to warm the van in the winter)
We take it to the beach all the time and it sure beats camping in a tent. When we moved it took a few trips, but everything fit in the Sprinter. Landscaping, drywall, plywood the Sprinter swallows it all. The best part is it's actually a hoot to drive, turns on a dime and has really good pickup for city driving.
Oh right, the stripper pole: